Self Denial

“If any man will come after me, let him deny himself” Matthew 16:24

There are few things at which people play more wretched farces than in their efforts at self-denial. Very few seem to have the remotest conception of what it is. One does without meat on Fridays, eating fish instead, and thinks he has denied himself in a most commendable way. Another gives up social dissipation for forty days in Lent, and is complacent over the merit of great self denial. Others make themselves miserable in various ways: inflicting pain, making useless and uncalled-for sacrifices, as if God were pleased when they suffer. But these things do not constitute self-denial. There is no merit or virtue in giving up anything, suffering any loss or pain, or making any sacrifice, merely for its own sake.

True self-denial is the renouncing of self and the yielding of the whole life to the will of Christ. It is self, coming down from the life’s throne, laying crown and sceptre at the Master’s feet, and thenceforth submitting the whole life to His sway. It is living all the while, not to please ourselves, not to advance our own personal interests, but to please our Lord and do His work. It is denying to ourselves anything that is sinful in His sight. It is the glad making of any sacrifice that loyalty to Him requires. It is the giving up of any pleasure or comfort for the good of others which the living out of His spirit may demand. The essential thing is that self gives way altogether to Christ as the motive of life.

Nothing, therefore, is true self-denial which is done merely as self-denial. True self-denial, like all other traits of Christlikeness, is unconscious of itself, wists not that its face shines. We deny ourselves when we follow Christ with joy and gladness, through cost and danger and suffering, just where He leads.